Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Wretched Sedge - Carex misera   Buckley
Members of Cyperaceae:
Members of Carex with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Cyperaceae
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DistributionStrictly the Mountains province.

Endemic to western NC, eastern TN, northwestern SC (discovered in 2022), and northeastern GA.
AbundanceLocally common. Formerly thought to be very rare in the state, but much more recent exploration of high elevation crags, cliffs, and other difficult-to-reach places has expanded the number of known sites. It is a Watch List species.
HabitatCliffs and rock outcrops at mid to high elevations, usually in exposed sites.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting June-July.
IdentificationWretched Sedge is densely cespitose (bunched), with slender leaves up to 1.5 feet long, the whole plant often arching over a precipice. Fertile stems have 1-3 slender, ascending, female spikes, with dark brown perigynia scales, each with a green midrib.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

The genus Carex is the largest in North America, and among the largest in the world. In temperate and boreal regions, Carex is often the dominant or co-dominant ground layer in many habitats. Seeds (achenes) are valuable food for birds and small mammals, while foliage is used by birds and mammals to make nests and as food by mammals. Species of Carex often look vastly different from one another -- spikes erect vs. drooping, tiny inflorescence vs. whopping, culms leafy vs. naked, perigynia beaked vs. beakless, stems densely bunched vs. single, etc. The genus has been divided into many sections (or groups), based on shared characters; some taxonomists have suggested that these be different genera, but that proves unworkable (so far). All Carex share the feature of a perigynium (an outer covering) which completely surrounds the achene (seed). This covering may fit tightly or loosely (like a small bladder), depending on which group or species. Details of perigynia shape, ornamentation, presence and size of beak, number of striations (or veins) are all important ID features. In recent years Rob Naczi and colleagues have stressed the importance of arrangement of perigynia -- whether spiral (3+ ranks) or distichous (2-ranked) -- and have named a number of new species as well as split off some older synonyms. Therefore, RAB's (1968) key, excellent for its time, can only be used in a general way today. Members of some sections of Carex are difficult to key out (notably Ovales, Laxiflorae, Griseae); this is in part due to variation among individuals of a species, or failings of the key. FNA has drawings of most species and some species may be found in two or more places within a key, to acount for variability. New species to NC, and new to science(!), continue to be found in NC.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS3
Global RankG3
State StatusW1
US Status
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B.A. SorrieJackson County, 1993, Whiteside Mountain. JacksonPhoto_natural
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